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'Tis the season for having sex with old flames and ruining your office reputation
A new study shows the holiday season encourages some poor relationship choices
 
Whatever happened to "yuletide carols being sung by a choir?"
Whatever happened to "yuletide carols being sung by a choir?" (Thinkstock)

Tis the season for bad relationship decisions, says a new survey from the dating site PlentyOfFish. Holidays are not only a time for good cheer and gift-giving, it’s also the time for hooking up with old flames and contemplating making out with your boss under the mistletoe.

A survey of 9,000 users ages 20 to 40 revealed that December is not the best month for creating stable, healthy relationships. Apparently, Santa’s sleigh travels down roads that are never, ever meant to be revisited. Amongst the most common poor choices, 26 percent say they have slept with exes over the holidays, and 40 percent say they would like to hook up with their high school sweetheart.

It’s not the combination of copious fruitcake and hearing Paul McCartney’s "Wonderful Christmastime" on loop that impairs people’s decision-making skills (though, let’s be honest, they probably do).

Sarah Gooding, who helped conduct the survey, hypothesizes these behaviors come from a desire for comfort during the holidays. She believes that the holiday season is "designed for people in relationships," which can make singles feel worse, while also adding "a lot of pressure to feel happy." Therefore, during the holiday season, it’s not uncommon for people "to revert to things that are comfortable." For some, that’s eating an entire Yule log. For others, it’s making out with the guy who you de-tagged from all of your Facebook photos six months earlier.

There’s also the not-so-subtle nudges from family members. There are only so many times you can hear Aunt Estelle try to set you up with the grandsons of her Canasta buddies before you’re willing to hook up with your homecoming date who still lives in his parents’ basement.

By the way, singles aren't the only ones whose loneliness (or fear of it) drive them to harmful relationship behavior. There's a strong correlation between being willing to stay in bad relationships and a fear of loneliness, and this holds extra true around the holidays. Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that if they were in a bad relationship, they would have to time a break up either before December or stick it out until after New Year's Eve.

Other than the forced sense of happiness that reminds you of your own flailing relationships or sense of deathly loneliness, the holidays are also a time for over-indulgence. "We’re overspending. We’re overeating," says Gooding, and, of course, "it’s time with a lot of drinking."

And so often this overindulgence is with coworkers, which is a toxic cocktail for office embarrassment, especially for dudes. Thirty percent of men surveyed say they would hook up with their boss at a holiday party, and 25 percent think the best time to reveal secret romantic feelings to a coworker is at a holiday party.

Of course, the correct response to these acts is hell no! When everyone’s getting drunk fast on a well-drinks-only two-hour open bar, do not attempt to realize your Jim and Pam fantasy.

And while singles are more willing to engage in risky business over the holidays, couples just get more paranoid. Forty-six percent say when they’re away from the people they’re dating over the holidays, they monitor them by checking their Facebook profiles. Many others stalk their Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn profiles, the latter of which seems completely ineffective unless they’re sleeping with a headhunter.

But while our end of the year antics may sour our relationships, reopen old romantic wounds, and ruin work relationships, people seem to always bounce back the following year. Not for nothing does Gooding report a 20 percent spike in membership come January.

 
Emily Shire is chief researcher for The Week magazine. She has written about pop culture, religion, and women and gender issues at publications including Slate, The Forward, and Jewcy.

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